The Substitutionary Death of Jesus on the Cross Alone Brings Salvation: Part One

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 30 May 2007 0 Comments
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I once worshiped and sang in a parish that was presided over by a

brilliant gay priest who preached against gays. I knew he was gay; I knew

his sub rosa partner well. Like so many people, I remained silent about his

homophobic preaching since I believed (and still do) that one's sexuality

and personal life are just that — personal. I was disturbed as he

cemented a "traditional, conservative" parish, based on the primacy of men,

the unsuitability of women for the priesthood and other policy roles in the

Church, a hypocritical disdain for homosexuals, and stunningly beautiful

liturgy and music. Then an Anglican bishop at the Lambeth Conference said

he was appalled and called the Church heretical for allowing a Native

American priest to celebrate the Mass in his own language and use the

language's word for Great Spirit as a translation for God. That did it for

me. I could no longer associate with a view of the world and the deity that

was essentially — although the parishioners would never have seen that

— fundamentalist. I left that church — and all organized

Christianity — after that.

I applaud your quest. Reading your columns and editorials is now my only

connection with active Christianity. Thank you.


I understand your feelings and in large measure share them. There is an

appalling dishonesty in the Church about gay people. We have more than one

gay bishop in our church at this moment. The Bishop of New Hampshire Gene

Robinson is not our only gay bishop; he is our only honest gay bishop. We

have had gay bishops who led the homophobic charge against homosexuality in

both the Episcopal Church and the Church of England. It is disillusioning.

However, that does not lead me to the conclusion that I will leave this

institution. I think the Church is worth fighting for and I intend to do

just that. I do not expect the Church to be perfect. It is made up of

human beings. I do ask you to note, however, that it is the same Church

that has so deeply alienated you that has also produced gigantic leaders in

the past and in the present. This is the Church that made Gene Robinson a

bishop, the Church that made Katharine Jefferts-Schori our presiding bishop.

It is the same Church that has raised up great leaders today like John Chane

in Washington, Michael Curry in North Carolina, Jon Bruno in Los Angeles,

Mark Beckwith in Newark, Catherine Roskam in New York and Steve Charleston,

formerly of Alaska, and now dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in

Cambridge. In previous generations, we produced giants like John Hines in

America, Robert Runcie in the United Kingdom and Desmond Tutu in South


I believe we can call this Church to honesty. I believe we can weather

the storms of our traditional small minded critics of today and shape a new

reformation, and I believe that the church can still be helpful in shaping

the new reformation. That cannot be done, however, unless there are people

like you who raise these issues as voices inside the church who demand to be

heard. Institutional change always comes from those who are inside the

church's walls not outside them

Everyone's witness is different. I, for one, would welcome your witness

at my side working to change this Church of ours.

John Shelby Spong




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